International school growth in Middle East: focus on quality

At IPSEF’s Dubai conference, experts from PwC and ISC Research highlighted the latest developments in education across the Middle East, as the number of international schools there continues to grow.

International school growth in Middle East: focus on quality
As the 2017 IPSEF Middle East Forum – designed to facilitate partnership building between international and private schools, investors, regulators and education suppliers – got underway, a session on the growth of private and international schools in the Middle East provided insights into the latest trends in education in this challenging region.

Middle East’s education sector undergoing reform

Structural reforms are being made in the Middle Eastern education sector as the region grapples with changing market demands, explained Roland Hancock, director of education at PwC. He highlighted five key changes, among them:
  • Linking up services
  • Accountability
  • Renewed focus on early education
According to Mr Hancock, the region is also embracing increasing private-sector participation in education. This includes public-private partnerships as a way of delivering the higher academic standards that are increasingly demanded throughout the region, especially in the UAE. This mounting focus on quality is partly due to the rapid growth of private and international schools throughout the Middle East. Parents in the UAE, according to a recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey of principals, are as insistent on higher academic standards as parents in the US.

International schools: key Middle Eastern countries

Nalini Cook, head of Middle East research at ISC Research, which provides data on English-medium international schools around the world, shared her organisation’s latest data on the expansion of premium English-medium international schools in the Middle East. This showed the UAE leading the region in the number of international schools by country, followed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Kuwait.The UAE also heads the region in terms of enrolment, with over half a million students registered in various premium English-language international schools.“Despite school fees being some of the highest in the world, the rise of international schools in the region will continue, as revenues are substantial,” said Ms Cook.Average annual fees for the region’s international schools hover around $8,000. In the UAE, the average fee is $7,747. In Saudi Arabia, it is $6,325.Fees are higher in Kuwait ($8,069 on average). Qatar tops the ranking, with annual school fees averaging $9,235. “The dynamics of the private and international-schools market in the [Middle East] are becoming more complex, with many crucial factors coming into play – from regulatory frameworks to quality standards, as well as teacher recruitment and student assessment, said Rhona Greenhill, co-founder of IPSEF.
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